Individual Differences in Judging Similarity Between Semantic Relations

AbstractThe ability to recognize and make inductive inferences based on relational similarity is fundamental to much of human higher cognition. However, relational similarity is not easily defined or measured, which makes it difficult to determine whether individual differences in cognitive capacity or semantic knowledge impact relational processing. In two experiments, we used a multi-arrangement task (previously applied to individual words or objects) to efficiently assess similarities between word pairs instantiating various abstract relations. Experiment 1 established that the method identifies word pairs expressing the same relation as more similar to each other than to those expressing different relations. Experiment 2 extended these results by showing that relational similarity measured by the multi-arrangement task is sensitive to more subtle distinctions. Word pairs instantiating the same specific subrelation were judged as more similar to each other than to those instantiating different subrelations within the same general relation type. In addition, Experiment 2 found that individual differences in both fluid intelligence and crystalized verbal intelligence correlated with differentiation of relation similarity judgments.

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